Blues should not spend £45m on January target – Antonio Cassano

CHELSEA would be wrong to hand over £45m for Cagliari star Nicolo Barella.

That is the verdict of former Real Madrid and Italy forward Antonio Cassano, who says football is going in a “very wrong direction”.

Express Sport understands Chelsea have lined up Barella as a potential replacement for playmaker Cesc Fabregas.

And now that Fabregas has quit Stamford Bridge for Monaco in a £10m deal, the Blues are primed to pounce for Barella.

The 21-year-old is valued at around £45m (€50m) by Cagliari, who came through their youth ranks before making his first-team debut in 2015.

Cassano, though, has now questioned whether Barella is worth the price tag Cagliari have slapped on him.

Although his fury is aimed at football more broadly, rather than towards the Serie A side or Chelsea.

“Unfortunately today football is going in a very wrong direction,” Cassano told Sky Sport Italia.

“Barella is worth €50m? Ok, so how much is Thiago Alcantara of Bayern Munich?

“He is young too, he is 27 years old, he is worth at least 4-5 times more than Barella.

“A player makes two good games, he runs right and left, maybe he is also a player of quantities like Allan or Barella.

“And then he is worth immediately 50, 60, 80 million? For me it is madness.”

Barella would have to compete with Jorginho, N’Golo Kante, Mateo Kovacic, Ross Barkley and Ruben Loftus-Cheek for a starting spot at Chelsea.

Italy boss Roberto Mancini says the midfielder must prioritise securing game time if he leaves Cagliari.

“I was telling [Marco] Tardelli at the Coverciano training ground that Barella moves a lot like him,” Mancini said.

“He has technique, quality, rarely loses the ball, is good in the air despite not being tall, never gives up and tends to push forward, but needs to also score a few more goals.

“Considering his age and the relative lack of Serie A experience, he has a strong grasp on his role already.

“Barella can set the example for the young Italian players out there who can give a little more to make that step up.

“He has enormous potential for growth and if he does leave Cagliari, he must be certain that he gets to play regularly.

“If he does go to a big club and is a first choice, then he can improve far more.

“However, if he risks spending half the season on the bench, he should stay put.”

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